Bandit, Ann, and Abe

By Gretchen Lieff   |   August 6, 2020
Ann Smith bought this convertible 1986 Mercedes 560 SL as a birthday present and she takes Bandit along as her co-pilot

When you’ve been quarantined for weeks and a tree falls on your house, at least you’ve got your friends, and your dog

Ferocious winds tore through Montecito that night, leaving a wake of damage and power outages. Forecasters blamed a strengthening ridge of high pressure and weak offshore gradients for producing the scary and destructive turbulence.

The first heat wave of the season was dominating Southwestern California, gripping it with suffocating intensity. These winds were a result. The peak heat would happen Thursday, with the season’s first National Weather Service Heat Advisory.

Excessive heat makes me wilt. I hate it. In fact, I prefer the opposite. There isn’t a marine layer temperature inversion I don’t take kindly to.

Add gusty winds and I’m likely to develop “Tea Fire Syndrome.”

And so it was that evening as we dined by candlelight with twilight approaching. Sounds charming, and it would have been, had the mercury not been hovering into the high 80s. And those damn winds, freight car gusts, threatening to take down our big oaks and towering eucalyptus as we held tightly to our dinner napkins on the outside deck. The lights flickered.

Between the roaring gusts and uncertain electricity, our dinner conversation wandered to a recent warning of something called “Hurricane Mentality,” a syndrome suffered by many residents of southern Gulf states.
When a big hurricane is on its way there are two kinds of people. Those who remain calm and prepare for the hurricane by assuring the maximum safety of home and family. And then there are the “Hurricane Mentality” people who gather and party, rendering themselves totally drunk, hoping by the time they sober up the tempest will have abated and the whole unpleasantness will have been just a bad hangover.

I’m hopeful. “How about a combination of the two?”

My dinner companions chuckle and I head to the kitchen to refresh my lemon drop as the house lights flicker again and go out.

The following morning’s evidence was apparent across Montecito. Gale force gusts had felled large trees and power lines, closing Olive Mill between Hot Springs and Coast Village roads, causing power outages across the East Valley Road, Picacho Lane and Eucalyptus Road neighborhoods.

John Palminteri surveyed the morning damage from the 1400 block of East Valley. “Here in Montecito we had a gust spike as high as eighty-two miles per hour,” he reported.

Fortunately we were spared, except for large branches ripped from my beautiful cedar fir and more oak leaves across the decks and lawns than I’ve ever seen.

Other Montecito properties and homes were not. My cellphone heralded a distraught Ann Smith.

“Oh my God, my house,” she cried. “Last night, I heard a terrible crash and I rushed into the backyard. It was about nine o’clock. The winds were absolutely ferocious, terrifying. So I heard a horrible crash, a huge part of my gigantic two hundred-year-old oak tree hit the house.”

Are you ok Ann?

“Not really, it was one of the scariest, most traumatic things that’s ever happened,” she said. “Most of the tree fell onto my garage, part of it went down onto my office, the rest landed on the back of the house. The tree is still here. It’s a mess.”

Is Bandit OK?

Bandit was adopted from the PAWS Dog Rescue Center in Jackson Hole, thanks to a little help from Ann Smith’s friends

“Thank goodness yes,” she replied. “I’m so grateful that he wasn’t injured. He was outside just moments before. His special area where he does his business is where the tree fell. Bandit senses the danger and won’t go near his favorite spot now.”

Ann talks about the tree crew arriving shortly. Then she suddenly shifts away from the tree calamity and starts talking about the dog who has been her center for 13 years. Her voice calms as she shares her story.

“I was walking on Butterfly Beach when I received a picture of this dog that needed a home, and it was Bandit,” she recalls. So I called the lady at my PAWS Dog Rescue Center in Jackson Hole and told her I wanted some friends to go and see him to help me make up my mind. Pet Adoption Day was the following Saturday and I emailed seven very good Jackson Hole friends, thinking that maybe one might be able to go visit with Bandit and meet him. And it turns out all seven turned up on Adoption Day. They called me here in Montecito and passed the phone around.

“Oh Annie, he’s the cutest thing we’ve ever seen and he’s got your name on him,” she said. “After all these years I still call them his grandparents.”

How did they find Bandit?

“There are lots of ranching communities around Jackson Hole where there’s little regard for animals, unless they’re working ones,” Annie said. “It turns out the rancher who had Bandit and his seven brothers and sisters lined up the six-week old puppies and started shooting them. A young cowboy saw what was happening and rushed over and grabbed the three remaining live puppies and took them to the rescue lady.”

My Hero Ann Smith

Ann is a selfless warrior working on behalf of animals. She founded the famed Jackson Hole PAWS Animal Rescue. She is a fierce protector of the wolf and grizzly bear and she’s been to East Africa more than 30 times to help save elephants. She is also on the Board of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.

Ann’s favorite thing in the world besides animals and (some) people is what she calls her beach car. She bought the convertible 1986 Mercedes 560 SL as a birthday present to herself when she turned 60.

“Bandit loves going to the beach in it,” she said. “He wears a visor. He’s my co-pilot.”

Ann Smith is founder of the famed Jackson Hole PAWS Animal Rescue and is a fierce protector of the wolf and grizzly bear

Back to the tree. “When the tree fell we didn’t know whether the car was OK because we couldn’t look inside the garage; the roof had caved in,” Ann said. “But Abe came over and he’s tall enough to look in, and he said that somehow, despite all the damage, my car was OK.”

Abe Powell, founder of our dearly loved Bucket Brigade, had rushed over to help. “I wouldn’t have known what to do without Abe,” Ann said. “But he came right over. I was just so rattled, and he’s been such a help.

“The silver lining is that now sunshine can reach my garden so I can grow roses. As Abe walked with me into the back to assess the damage I said, ‘Look Abe there’s sunshine for the first time. It’s always been shady.’”

“Well Ann, that’s one way to make lemonade out of lemons,” Abe said.

“I love Abe and Santa Barbara is so lucky to have him,” Annie said.

The conversation returns to Bandit.

“I was going through a divorce at the time I met Bandit. I like to say that he rescued me and he’s been a wonderful companion, especially during these difficult times of being so isolated.

“People often ask me if I miss having a man in my life,” Annie said. “Well he’s black and white and he sleeps with me, and he doesn’t yell and he’s always thankful for what I give him to eat. He’s the perfect husband! And Abe is the perfect friend. And I’m just fine with that!”


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